Prosecutors probe deadly California balcony collapse

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 25, 2015 3:50 AM

By Emmett Berg

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Prosecutors have launched an investigation into the deadly balcony collapse in Berkeley, California last week that killed five Irish students and an American friend, a district attorney official said on Wednesday.

Berkeley city officials announced on Tuesday that criminal charges were not expected, but Alameda County deputy District Attorney Teresa Drenick told Reuters in an email late on Wednesday that prosecutors continued to investigate.

"In light of Berkeley's statement Tuesday afternoon that it had concluded its investigation, this office will be the lead agency," Drenick said.

The San Francisco Chronicle newspaper reported on Wednesday, citing anonymous sources, that Berkeley officials would join the probe, despite previously saying charges were not anticipated.

Potential targets could include the general contractor for the apartment building, Segue Construction, Inc., or the company that applied a waterproof membrane to the balcony, R. Brothers, according to the newspaper.

Neither firm commented to the Chronicle.

Drenick did not provide additional details about the investigation, but said: "We continue to work with the city of Berkeley as we go forward."

Authorities have said 13 people attending a birthday party had crowded onto the balcony when it ripped away from the exterior wall of the apartment house and pitched over 90 degrees, spilling everyone 40 feet (12 meters) to the street below.

Three men and three women - five visiting college students from Ireland and one American friend who was with them - were killed in the accident. Seven other people were hospitalized.

Also on Wednesday, one of the survivors posted a message on Facebook saying she may never walk again.

Clodagh Cogley, 21, whose profile indicates a hometown of Dublin, Ireland, said she had suffered two collapsed lungs, a broken shoulder, a broken knee, five broken ribs and a broken spinal cord, according to the Chronicle.

"Life is short and I intend to honor those who died by living the happiest and most fulfilling life possible," she wrote. "Who knows, maybe legs have been holding me back all these years and I'll realize my talent for wheelchair basketball."

(Editing by Curtis Skinner and Tom Heneghan)